2003 Ford Explorer AC Not Cold Enough

12:21 pm Air Conditioning, Ford Problems, Tech/Mechanic


This picture shows some side dash bolts with trim removed.

© DenLorsTools.com Summary: Common cause of 2002-2005 (Third Generation) Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer low airflow issues covered. Broken recirculate doors can affect airflow from the blower fan if the main air inlet door has fallen. A Ford Explorer that has a full charge of refrigerant and is cooling, but is not quite cool enough may have a broken fresh air door, preventing proper recirculation. The fresh air door is also called a recirculate door, max air door or main air inlet door.

The function of the door is to let fresh air in, or to recirculate the inside air. When the air conditioning control is set to the max position, the fresh air door seals off the outside air to recirculate the air in the passenger compartment. When the air is recirculated, cooler air temperatures can be obtained since the air is cooler to begin with, compared to the outside air.

Not Just Ford. Any vehicle with a broken recirculation door or actuator that moves this door can have this problem. However a broken blend door is a common problem with the Ford Explorer. This can be checked easily. First, listen for increased air flow when changing the the AC to max. If the air doesn’t sound louder in the max position, there’s a good chance the recirculate door is broken. Next open the glove box and look for movement of the recirculate door when switching from normal to max air.


Fresh Air door assembly, broken door fell to the bottom.

Dash Removal. If the door is broken, dash removal is required to access and change the door assembly. Book time pays 6.9 hours not including check out time and evacuation and recharging.

This job can be done by an experienced technician in about 45 minutes, with no need to evacuate and recharge the AC system. The dash is not completely removed, just unbolted and swung out to rest on the passenger seat to allow removal and replacement of the main air inlet door assembly.

Remove the Console. Remove the center console upper trim (one 7mm screw), unplugging the power outlet. There are two 10mm bolts securing the front of the console to the floorboard. Move the seats forward, from the back seat area remove  two 10mm bolts from the sides of the console. Now the console is loose, place it to the side.

Unbolting the Dash. After disconnecting the battery, remove the trim panels from the sides of the dash and the defrost trim from the top. There are two bolts on each side and two on the top. Unbolt the steering coupler near the driver’s floorboard. There is one hidden 10mm bolt that is accessed from the outside.


Hidden Dash 10mm Dash Bolt

Sneaking it Out. No need to remove the wipers and cowl trim. Gently pry the cowl trim up and leave it propped up about an inch and a half to allow access to the bolt. Have a magnet pick up tool handy in case the bolt falls out of the socket. Unbolt the wiring harness on the right side and unplug the antenna.


Swing the dash out to access the recirculate door

Swing It. Slowly swing the dash out with care not to put excessive force on the wiring. Once the dash is pulled back, remove the 8mm screws from the metal support bracket and the top of the door assembly. There are two 8mm screws that cannot be accessed, pull on the fresh air door assembly break it away from the evaporator case. Now remove the 8mm screws and remaining plastic, making sure no plastic pieces fall into the blower fan.


Use Right Stuff Sealant at the Mounting Points Marked in the Picture

Right Stuff. Instead of re-using the two 8mm screws at the hard to access attaching points near the firewall, apply right stuff sealant or a similar substance to secure the fresh air door assembly. Then re-attach the remaining 8mm screws that can be accessed. By using the right stuff securing method, much time is saved. Now re-install the dash and console and an eight hour job is completed in about 45 minutes!  

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206 Responses
  1. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: July 17, 2016 @ 9:10 am

    Most likely an actuator (electric motor) that controls that door. The dealer may be able to show a parts break-down of that part of the system where the air goes through the console. You could also just take it apart and inspect. If you find the actuator that controls that particular airflow section you could remove it and work the door manually to test. Good Luck.

  2. Andrew :

    Date: July 20, 2016 @ 9:04 am

    Does anyone have a part number for the door needed for a 2005 Explorer?

  3. Rhaarmans :

    Date: October 16, 2016 @ 7:03 pm

    Unbolt the steering coupler near the driver’s floorboard. I can’t figure this out, I have everything done except this, and I can’t swing the dash out enough t put the new blower in. Help!

  4. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: October 17, 2016 @ 1:25 pm

    These are not instructions for the blower motor. It comes out the bottom. Good Luck.

  5. rhaarmans :

    Date: October 17, 2016 @ 4:29 pm

    Sorry I was frustrated, and used the wrong term. I am trying to install a new air duct inlet, and cant get the drivers side dash moved out far enough to get the new one in. I have followed your directions, but it seems like something in the steering needs to be removed, but I am not sure what. Your directions state “Unbolt the steering coupler near the driver’s floorboard” I cant find out what this is, or how to remove it.

  6. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: October 17, 2016 @ 5:14 pm

    Follow steering shaft to where it goes through floor. Should be very easy to see.

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